Regular physical activities can play a positive role in cancer prevention and care.

  • Exercise reduces your risk of developing cancer.
  • Exercise during and after cancer treatment may reduce your risk of cancer recurrence and progression.
  • Exercise improves quality of life in cancer patients and survivors.

Data from clinical trials showed substantial positive effects of exercise on quality of life, cardiorespiratory fitness, and cardiovascular fitness. Exercise also improves fatigue during the survivorship phase.

Regular exercise may also reduce the risk of cancer.

Based on the current evidence, the American Cancer Society has recommended regular exercise for cancer survi¬vors.
Cancer survivors should be encouraged to exercise to toler¬ance during adjuvant therapy, including reducing intensity and duration (eg, 10 minutes), if needed. Resistance train¬ing may be particularly helpful for cancer survivors during adjuvant therapy.

Once treatment has been finalised, the public health exercise guidelines can be recommended for most cancer survivors. These guidelines propose two different exercise prescriptions for general health.

he more traditional prescription is to per-form at least 20 minutes of continuous vigorous-intensity exercise (ie, 75% of maximal heart rate) at least 3 days per week.

An alternative prescription is to accumulate at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise (ie, 50–75% of maxi¬mal heart rate) in durations of at least 10 minutes on 5 days per week.

Fitness and cancer care professionals should feel comfortable recommending exercise to cancer patients during and after treatments, based on the evidence for sup¬portive care benefits.   

Can’t exercise? Get moving!

Recent research indicates that the amount of time you sit each day (even if you are regularly physically active and not overweight) is associated with physiologic changes (e.g. insulin resistance and inflammation) that increase your risk of cancer and other chronic conditions, and early death from any cause.

The longer you sit, the greater your risk. The researchers found that sitting 6 or more hours a day increased the risk of early death from all causes by an average of 35% for women and 18% for men, even if they exercised (compared to those who sat less than 3 hours a day.)

Failing to exercise plus sitting for 6 hours or more a day proved even more hazardous. The combination of little physical activity and long periods of sitting was linked to a 94% higher risk of premature death for women and a 48% higher risk for men compared with those who sat the least and exercised the most!

Fortunately, they discovered that by simply taking activity breaks (e.g. getting up and walking around) for as little as one-minute is able to reduce these risks.

If you are a cancer survivor, your sedentary time increases your risk of becoming overweight and developing or exacerbating other chronic condition such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Some patients (e.g. those with head and neck or gastrointestinal cancers) may lose a significant amount of muscle mass during or after their cancer treatment, so much so that it can be difficult for them to get up out of a chair. In this group, exercises to help build muscle are important.

Other patients (e.g. those with breast or prostate cancer) may gain a significant amount of fat as a result of the systemic treatments they often receive.  In this group, exercises that help patients lose fat and get back to a healthful body mass index (BMI) are important.

Exercise During Cancer Treatment

Exercise during cancer treatment is not only safe and feasible, but also beneficial for reducing fatigue, improving physical function, and enhancing overall well being. Studies show that exercise during cancer treatment reduces the occurrence of negative, post-treatment outcomes, including loss of bone density and muscle mass, cardiovascular performance, etc.

It’s important to keep in mind that exercise programs may need to be adapted depending on your health status and medical treatments you may have received (e.g. radiation therapy, surgery, hormonal therapy.)

Low-intensity exercise programs, including walking, stretching and yoga are best suited for individuals who were sedentary prior to their cancer diagnosis. Individuals who are on bed-rest can benefit greatly from physical therapy, which maintains strength and range of motion while also counteracting the effects of depression and fatigue.


Society for Integrative Oncology (USA based) 2009 Practice Guidelines

High Intensity, Interval Training (HIIT) for cancer

Exercise and cancer

Exercise and natural killer cells

Find a integrative oncology practitioner